Joe Schmidt seeks to freshen things up for England clash
IRELAND boss Joe Schmidt will give his injury-ravaged squad this weekend off as he looks inject some freshness ahead of their trip to Twickenham.
Upwards on half the squad will be released to their provinces for PRO12 action, while those who have started in Ireland’s opening games against Wales and France are set for a rest.
Cian Healy and Mike Ross, having played 58 and 42 minutes respectively in Leinster’s rout of Zebre last Friday night, are set to rejoin the Ireland camp, which moves from Carton House to Mullingar this week. They will both go back to Leinster for their trip to face Cardiff Blues on Saturday afternoon and are certain, barring injury, to come into contention for the tie with England.
The senior squad will train with the U20s on Friday once the players who have been released go back to their provinces: “We’ll give the players the weekend off to freshen up and then hopefully get on a bit of a role heading into the England week," said Schmidt.
“I’d say about half the squad will play [with their provinces] this weekend, so there’s a number of players who are going back. We’ve been filtering players back regularly, usually after Tuesday or Wednesday’s training. Usually, we pick up a few young guys to come in and train with us. It’s something we’ve done over the last few years.
“This weekend, there’ll be more guys who go back because it’s an opportunity for them to get some game time and to strengthen their provinces and their quest to get towards the top of the PRO12.”
Jared Payne has emerged as the latest injury doubt as they start to prepare for the challenge of Eddie Jones’ Grand Slam-chasing side, who have started off with wins over Scotland and Italy. The Ulster centre suffered a grade-one hamstring strain in the first-half of last Saturday’s 10-9 defeat by France in Paris.
He played the whole 80 minutes and Schmidt admitted it was a case of needs must after having earlier lost Dave Kearney to injury: “We already had to put Fergus McFadden on when Dave Kearney got taken out so, on the basis of that, Jared basically said he’d go as long as he could," he added.
“He was doing such a good job for us. Defensively, he really shut down some opportunities they had. He certainly won’t train this week and we’ll have to just monitor him in the lead up to the England game."
Sean O’Brien has suffered a grade-two hamstring tear, which will rule him out of the trip to Twickenham and, potentially, the rest of the Six Nations. He had missed the opening round draw with Wales because of a hamstring strain and suffered the tear less than 20 minutes in at the Stade de France.
Second-row Mike McCarthy is set to see a specialist “because of the nature of the impact” which left him with concussion. He clashed heads with team-mate Jack McGrath in the second-half and had to be stretchered off. He will now follow return-to-play protocols and is a major doubt for the England game. Dave Kearney’s shoulder knock has been confirmed as an AC joint injury and he is “very likely to miss the England game” as a result.
Jonathan Sexton, who was withdrawn through injury for the fourth consecutive time in an Ireland-France fixture, “is certainly feeling a lot better 48 hours post game,” said Schmidt.
“His neck and shoulder is more of a whiplash injury,” added the Ireland boss.
Ireland haven't won at Twickenham since a brace of tries from Tommy Bowe led them to a 20-16 victory in 2010.